Friday, April 11, 2008

Screeching Halt

I tuned in to Fox news at ten o'clock on Monday night to find out the fate of Mayor Bloomberg's congestion-pricing plan. I meant to write sooner (it's Wednesday as I write, and I'm at the airport), but I've had a busy time of it. I got back from Provincetown on Monday, and as I was heading down the F.D.R. at a little before six I was mindful of the possibility that this might be a historic last free entry into Manhattan below Sixtieth Street. I was beginning to believe that I could stay under the radar of congestion pricing. Afer all, I am one of those extremely lucky people who are already in Manhattan below Sixtieth Street. Surely I could arrange to enter before 6 A.M. or after 6 P.M. If I didn't want to pay eight dollars to come down the F.D.R. at twenty to six, I could stop and dawdle, and possibly end up paying twenty dollars for a lobster somewhere in the Bronx.

I dropped off some friends, then headed to my neighborhood, planning at first to go straight to my block, put a quarter in the parking meter (I had one), go upstairs for three more quarters, and worry about the car in the morning. But of course I had to just see if there was a spot on K Street, four blocks away. There was not, so I drove down to where my car had been so conveniently towed to last Thursday in the predawn hours and found a spot there. But the Muni Meter was in effect until 7, and once more I had only a single quarter, so I couldn't buy even fifteen minutes to run to St. Dunkin Donuts for change.

So I started her up again and went on my rounds. If I had stayed there, I would have had to be at the car and looking for a spot at 9 A.M. anyway. And the spot I eventually found was good till 11:30 on Thursday: perfect.

I felt a little sorry for Mayor Bloomberg, though, whose legacy now, it turns out, will be only for eliminating smoking in bars. But it is not as if this were the last chance for congestion pricing. What I think the problem was was this deadline for receiving federal funds. I know it was a lot of money, but there is nothing that makes me more suspicious than a deadline. It's like when you're at a resort in Mexico and they are selling time shares and tell you that a certain price is good only until breakfast tomorrow. Do they really expect you to rush into a lifelong financial commitment with that kind of threat? If congestion pricing is going to come to Manhattan, it should be considered with no pressure, on its merits.

While I was going down the F.D.R. I had a kind of aural hallucination of the money being totted up on the civic cash register as the cars piled in--ka-ching, ka-ching, ka-ching . . . It would have been an obscene amount. And I was going against traffic.

[Typed on Friday in Vernazza, Cinque Terre.]

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